Where can you save the most teaching English?

Where can you save the most teaching English?

A TEFL qualification is your ticket to new cultures, countries, and all kinds of exciting experiences. Most people hoping to teach English abroad are looking for a new adventure, but is it also possible to save money on a teacher’s salary and enjoy a new country and way of life?

You absolutely can!

Wherever you TEFL your salary should be enough to live off. In some countries you might only break even, but there are some that present the opportunity to save a substantial amount of your wage. If squirrelling away a decent amount of your wages is a priority then keep reading to find out where you can save the most teaching English!

Salaries vs. Living costs

The bigger the difference between your salary and the living costs in the area you’re working in, the more you can potentially save. Check out this cost of living index  to see how countries rank.

And keep in mind that where you’re based within a country will make a difference. The cost of living can be substantially higher in capital cities. While salaries will generally reflect this you can easily pocket more of your wage in less popular or more rural areas. Consider teaching a bit more off the beaten track and be more open to towns or cities you might never have heard of if saving is a priority.

In some countries it’s common for employers to include benefits such as accommodation and flight reimbursement. This means you can potentially save a lot more on a lower salary!

Saving on a TEFL wage

How much you can save obviously depends on how frugal you’re willing to be. Teaching English abroad is a fantastic means of immersing yourself in a culture, travelling, and opening yourself up to new experiences. You don’t want to be so frugal that you’re missing out on all of that!

Eating like the locals and avoiding expat and tourist areas are obvious ways to reduce expenditure. Make up a budget and stick to it, set yourself monthly saving goals and cut back on any frivolous spending.

The countries where TEFL teachers can save the most

A skyline in Saudi Arabia

UAE & Saudi Arabia

How much can you earn: £1,600 - £4,000 ($2,000 - $5,000) per month (tax free)
Requirements: 2+ years teaching experience, 120+ hour TEFL qualification, BA degree

Tax-free salaries and excellent benefits are the main lures for EFL teachers to these oil-rich Middle Eastern countries. Most positions come with accommodation (often in a foreigner’s compound kitted out with great sports facilities), flights and health insurance. Combined with the possibility of living somewhere with few options for spending money on leisure and entertainment you can save a considerable amount in a short space of time.

The money is great, but anyone thinking of working in a strict Islamic country has to be aware of all that entails – most teachers in these countries are motivated by the high salaries and find themselves only staying a year or two. Travelling within the area isn’t easy if you’re not Muslim, so it doesn’t tend to attract teachers with an appetite for exploring. Saudi Arabia completely bans alcohol and to work there you also need to provide a statement of religion (no atheists allowed). For women the situation can be particularly challenging – the ban on women driving lifted in Saudi Arabia only ended in 2018.

There are few options for newly-qualified inexperienced teachers, however – most positions advertised request at least two years teaching experience alongside a BA degree and a TEFL qualification. High salaries come with more competition, so the more experienced and qualified you are the better.

Buildings lit up at night in China


How much can you earn: £1,200 - £1,600 ($1,500 - $2,000) per month
Requirements: 120+ hour TEFL qualification, BA degree

We say it all the time but it bears repeating – China’s a great place to TEFL! With benefit packages including accommodation, airfare allowance, health insurance, and competitive salaries, newly-qualified teachers can earn and save well in China.

You can expect the cost of living in major cities to be around 5,000RMB a month but as little as 2,000RMB away from these areas. It’s cheap to eat out and travel within the country, so it’s possible to save and enjoy experiencing the culture at the same time – perfect, right?

There’s a huge demand for teachers in China so there’s no shortage of work for teachers who have just gained their TEFL qualification but have no prior teaching experience.

Traditional buildings in South Korea

South Korea

How much you can earn: £1,300 - £2,000 ($1,600 - $2,500) per month
Requirements: 120+ hour TEFL qualification, BA degree

Did you know that South Korean government spends more money on English education than any other government in the world? English is considered essential for adults and children alike and around 8 out of 10 children study English after school. To go to university, students need to have a certain level of English proficiency. This all means that there’s plenty of work to be found for those looking to teach in South Korea.

Accommodation, flights and other benefits tend to be included in contracts and it can be possible to save upwards of £800 a month!

Most teachers find work in state schools through the government-run EPIK scheme  or private language schools called hagwons, where trade is booming. Over the years certain hagwons have developed a reputation for exploiting teachers (you can find plenty of horror stories online) and while the situation is getting better it’s still very important to keep your wits about you – there are plenty of hagwons out there that are great to work for. See our post all about TEFL scams and bad employers  to get clued up.

Neon lights in Japan


How much you can earn: £1,600 - £2,200 ($2,000 - $2,700) per month
Requirements: 120+ hour TEFL qualification, BA degree

You can save a good amount teaching English in Japan, but you do need to be more frugal than you would in China or South Korea. Japan offers higher wages than many other countries in Asia but living costs can be high, so keep that in mind.

Japan has a similar government-run scheme as South Korea, called JET. Annual salaries for the JET programme  start at 36 million yen (£24,000 / $31,500) and rise with each year you stay on. JET participants usually teach alongside a native Japanese teacher, so for those who don’t feel quite confident enough to be entirely responsible for classes it can be a good start to a teaching career.

Flights tend to be included in teaching contracts as well as visa fees, but you will likely have to pay for your own accommodation (many employers will offer assistance with finding a place, however) and health insurance may be deducted from your salary.

Teach English online

How much you can earn: £10-20 per lesson, more with experience
Requirements: 120+ hour TEFL qualification

Perhaps you’re not looking to move abroad just yet – or maybe ever – and you’re wondering if teaching English is something you can do at home. The online TEFL industry is continually growing, so there’s lots of work available and there can be high returns for talented teachers who learn how to market themselves.

Established online teachers can command high hourly rates, but even for those just getting started it can be a great additional income. If you’re looking to save some extra cash alongside your current job online teaching is a flexible option that you can fit around your existing commitments – and it’s definitely possible to build up to a full-time income.

Most people get started by teaching for an online platform and as they build up their experience develop their own website and source students themselves. We have an advanced TEFL course  focused on online teaching that guides you through how to do this.

For more information download our FREE Guide to Teaching English Online .

How much you can earn in other countries

Interested in teaching elsewhere in the world? See the table below to discover how much you could earn, as well as details about the requirements for each country!

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